Difference Between Neuromyelitis Optica and Multiple Sclerosis

Understanding Neuromyelitis Optica and Multiple Sclerosis

Neuromyelitis Optica is an autoimmune disorder affecting the central nervous system specifically the optic nerves and the spinal cord causing a variety of symptoms like vision disturbances, balance problems, paralysis of the arms or legs, bowel and bladder dysfunction as a result of the extensive damage caused to the spinal cord. Neuromyelitis Optica is caused when the immune system of the body attacks the central nervous system specifically the optic nerves and the spinal cord. At times, the brain also gets affected as a result of Neuromyelitis Optica. The reason as to why the immune system attacks the central nervous system is not exactly clear although certain infections or other autoimmune disorders may play a part in the development of Neuromyelitis Optica.

Multiple sclerosis on the other hand is a disabling neurological condition in which the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves get affected resulting in problems with vision, balance, muscle control and dysfunction of other body functions. The severity of the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis is variable and differs from individual to individual. While some individuals may have mild forms of multiple sclerosis with little to no symptoms, others may find it extremely disabling and may not even be able to carry out their daily tasks.

The primary cause for the development of multiple sclerosis is the body’s immune system attacking the myelin sheath which is an insulating material which protects the nerve fibers. If the myelin gets destroyed it exposes the nerve fibers which tend to get damaged causing the symptoms classic for multiple sclerosis.

Difference Between Neuromyelitis Optica and Multiple Sclerosis

Difference Between Neuromyelitis Optica & Multiple Sclerosis Based On Definition

Neuromyelitis Optica is rare in occurrence. It usually affects the optic nerve and the spinal cord which form a part of the central nervous system resulting in vision problems or at times even temporary or permanent blindness depending on the severity of the episode and the age and overall health of the individual.

Multiple Sclerosis on the other hand tends to affect people more in the United States than Neuromyelitis Optica. Another striking difference between these two conditions is that Multiple Sclerosis affects the entire central nervous system including the optic nerve, spinal cord, and brain. Numbness and paralysis are symptoms that are common in Multiple Sclerosis while these symptoms are rarely seen in Neuromyelitis Optica. The severity of the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis are significantly variable where one individual may not be affected much by this condition while another individual may have disabling symptoms which may not allow him or her to even carry out activities of daily living.

Difference Between Neuromyelitis Optica And Multiple Sclerosis Based On Symptoms

While there are many similarities between the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis and Neuromyelitis Optica, there are subtle differences as well. While Neuromyelitis Optica affects primarily the optic nerves and the spinal cord the symptoms are limited to vision loss and bowel and bladder disturbances due to damage to the spinal cord.
Multiple Sclerosis affects the entire nervous system destroying the myelin sheath thus damaging the nerve fibers which can lead to disabling symptoms like paralysis, complete blindness, loss of sensation in the upper and lower extremities.

Difference Between Neuromyelitis Optica And Multiple Sclerosis Based On How It Affects The Body

There are also certain differences between Multiple Sclerosis and Neuromyelitis Optica in the way they affect the entire body of the affected individual.

The symptoms of neuromyelitis optica on the other hand are extremely severe and often irreversible. Studies have proved that Neuromyelitis Optica causes more harm to the body than Multiple Sclerosis. Studies have also proved that the medications that are extremely beneficial in controlling the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis have absolutely no effect on the symptoms of Neuromyelitis Optica.

The symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis are generally mild especially in the early stages of the disease process although gradually with time they tend to become disabling.

Difference Between Neuromyelitis Optica And Multiple Sclerosis Based On Recurrence Frequency

The disease course of both Multiple Sclerosis and Neuromyelitis Optica are quite similar but the relapses of Multiple Sclerosis are more frequent than episodes of Neuromyelitis Optica. Another difference based on recurrence frequency is that a flare up of the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis may not cause much damage to the central nervous system while a relapse of Neuromyelitis Optica can have catastrophic complications.

Difference Between Neuromyelitis Optica and Multiple Sclerosis Based On Prevalence

Based on prevalence, multiple sclerosis is far more common than neuromyelitis optica. Studies have shown that around two million people are affected in the United States with Multiple Sclerosis while there are only 10,000 cases of Neuromyelitis Optica in the country. This in itself speaks about the rarity of Neuromyelitis Optica.

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